Monday, 29 November 2010

An Enthusiast's Travels

At the start of the year, especially when the days get a bit longer by February, I always formulate a list of where I want to go taking photos or visiting for bus purposes. As the year is drawing to a close, and knowing my itinerary for next month I'm unlikely to get out again, I thought I'd see how I've done.

Local(ish) - i.e. morning or afternoon:
* Romsey, Lymington, Ringwood, Christchurch, Salisbury, Andover, Basingstoke, Winchester, Havant, Chichester

Day Trip:
* Poole, Bournemouth, Swanage, Weymouth, Brighton, Guildford, Bath, Bristol, Isle of Wight

At a Push:
* Taunton, Oxford, Exeter, Plymouth, Truro

Firstly, if I look at my local targets, I've done pretty well. I had a very successful day out in the New Forest photographing in Lymington and Ringwood, managing to photograph all but one of Wilts' Scania Omncitys on the X3 and completing my photos of the Volvo B7TLs on the X1/X2. One of my major targets was to finally photograph a Bournemouth Yellow Buses vehicle, and two trips to Christchurch have seen me finally do this! I've covered Stagecoach quite well - Basingstoke, Havant and Chichester - although haven't made it to Winchester or Andover. Still, plenty of time next year!

I love day trips. Jump on a train at Southampton Central or Parkway and go wherever it takes you. My favourite lines have to be up to Bath/Bristol alongside the Avon, or down to Weymouth through the New Forest, Poole Estuary and the Dorset countryside. This year I've visited Weymouth twice, finally made it to Poole, and photographed all but one of Wilts & Dorset's Scanias at Swanage. Going East, I've finally made it to Brighton and Eastbourne, but unfortunately didn't find time to get to Guildford. Guildford is high up on my list of targets next year, and also has the benefit of being able to be done on a dark, wet wintery day due to the layout of the bus station with relation to the sun. Going north(ish), Bristol was possibly my camera's finest hour - photographing buses travelling in two lanes of traffic at approximately 20-30mph and getting most spot on. Bath for next year, maybe.

Finally, my more exotic destinations. My most pleasing trip was to Taunton, deep into old Southern National country which I'd been trying to reach for years. My first ride on a HST was the mode of transport - down from Reading (they are great fun!). I managed to get to Oxford on the X Country Voyager, which proved to be a satisfying day in the land of Enviro400s. While I was down in Cornwall I also had a very pleasing afternoon in Truro, but unfortunately didn't make it to Exeter or Plymouth. Exeter is in the pipeline when the days get longer - a 158 up to Salisbury, and a 159 down to Exeter probably.

So initial targets for next year- Bath, Guildford and Winchester initially, including getting up to date on the Southampton photos after various recent arrivals, but after that, wherever the trains go really!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Eastleigh's new MPDs

Due to other commitments, I haven't managed to get out and about with the camera recently (also weather conditions/sun levels have made photography very difficult). Therefore, once again, I'm going back in time... This time the date is 30th July 2003, and Solent Blue Line's Transbus Dart MPDs have just been introduced over the Eastleigh network...

The first buses I managed to photograph on the visit were two of the brand new MPDs - here 571 (SN03EBP) passes 580 (SN03LDK) as it departs Eastleigh bus station heading for Wickham on route 48D. 571 is one of 6 still with BlueStar, whereas 580 is now at Wilts & Dorset having just moved on from Southern Vectis. It's also now numbered 320, where 571 is still 571. 580 is again shown underneath in the second photo. 

Furthermore, neither of the routes these buses are operating exist with BlueStar anymore; the 48D is now a mixture of BlueStar's route F from Eastleigh to Swanmore, Brijan's route 8 from Eastleigh to Bishop's Waltham, and First's 94 from Wickham to Fareham. Route 29 has largely been withdrawn but Velvet still operate the Eastleigh - Hedge End stretch as route A, although as the A has been halved in frequency and nothing has replaced the Hedge End - Southampton stretch, you could say it has been completely cut.

The Leyland Olympian was the most common double deck bus for many a year at Solent Blue Line, and I managed to photograph former Hampshire Bus 705 (A205MEL) on 30th July. She is seen in Eastleigh bus station waiting before service 41 commences. The 41 to Stoke Common is now BlueStar route F.

Solent Blue Line, at this point, operated 6 Volvo Olympians - none of which remain in service with the company today. 739 (R739XRV), pictured here, now operated on the Isle of Wight with Southern Vectis as an Island Breezer. I think the straight lines of this yellow and blue livery suited the Northern Counties bodywork.

Whereas you will now find a low floor bus anywhere on the BlueStar network, low floor double deckers were at a premium back in 2003. 15 Volvo B7TLs and Dennis Tridents were scattered across route X9 and 38 from Southampton to Hythe, 26/7 Southampton - Hedge End & Fareham, 47 Southampton - Winchester and 48 Southampton - Eastleigh & Fair Oak. Here is 743 (T743JPO), pictured in Eastleigh bus station having just arrived on a 48 from Fair Oak - now route BlueStar 2 of course.

I hope you have enjoyed this trip down memory lane - comments as to whether these historical posts are valued would be much appreciated as I don't wish to bore you! Unfortunately I can't go further back in time as I only really started photographing buses in 2003. Thanks for viewing.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Remembering the Snow

With some of the northern areas of the British Isles being affected by snow at the moment, this blog posting remembers back to earlier on this year, in January, when the whole of the south ground to a halt with the heaviest snowfall in many a year. The conditions gave me a chance to go and grab some fantastic and rare photos, and some of my favourites are posted below.

Although I was snowed in for the evening of the Tuesday and then the Wednesday, on Thursday I jumped onto the train and got off at Cosham, as news had come through that both Stagecoach and First were operating some services. My first photo in the snow was Stagecoach South Dennis Dart SLF 33032 (P302AYJ), pictured on a truncated route 23 which was operating between Farlington and Portsmouth city centre.

The majority of First buses out and about were Mercedes-Benz minibuses. Here is Hoeford based 51720 (N720GRV), seen on the first route 57 of the day, which was again shortened. The 57 operated between Fareham (West St) and Portsmouth City Centre via the main roads - she is seen here with a snowy Portsdown Hill in the background in Cosham.

First weren't using the bus interchange in Cosham, but a few brave Stagecoach bus drivers made their way down. Here is Bridge branded 34416 (GX53MWG), usually allocated to the Hayling Island to Havant routes. None of the Enviro300s were introduced to service, so I guess it was a means of needs must with regard to the buses allocated to service. The snow was a good 5-8 inches thick in most parts here.

A shot from the bridge in Cosham over Northern Road, here is First Hants & Dorset 52513 (S513RWP) on a shortened route 1C. The 1C operated between Cosham and Southsea, again using Hilsea based minibuses. This is a lovely view of Cosham, with a snow covered Portsdown Hill in the background. Thankfully the railways were operational during the snow, allowing me to grab these shots.

On the Friday, I managed to get out to Fareham as some services were operating out of Hoeford. The daytime 81 and 82 were introduced between Fareham (Quay St) and Gosport town centre, the 80 was operating along the A27 to Southampton, and the 5 and 57 were operated to Portsmouth. Here Dart SLF 42138 (S638XCR) is pictured along Quay St in Fareham, with the destination set to route 81. The 81 usually only operates on early weekday mornings, so the snow allowed me to get a rare shot. The snow jumpstarted my photography at the start of 2010, which continued at a high frequency until September. Maybe it will again this winter... here's hoping for less disruption than last year, but I'll be happy with plenty more snowy shots.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Scolling Displays at FHD

Since the widespread introduction of LED displays to the First Hants & Dorset in 2007, they have all received the same standard layout - as illustrated below by former First Hants & Dorset Volvo B7RLE 66955 (WX55TZS).

66955 illustrates the standard layout of the LED display until very recently - route number on the right, with the destination in large lower case letters above the via points, which flicker between one another. She is pictured in December last year, in The Hard, just about to depart on route 17. 66955 was acquired on loan from First Somerset & Avon, and now is in operation in Glasgow.

An increasing number of LED displays are now scrolling the via points below the ultimate destination. All three depots have been affected in this way - with usually the more recently updated routes receiving the new scrolling layout. Older routes or those unaffected by recent route changes appear to still be displayed similarly to 66955 above.

Two examples here - first up Portswood based Dennis Dart SLF 42513 (R413WPX), pictured at Hedge End Superstores back in October. Route 8A has recently been changed so that all journeys terminate at Southampton city centre, with the intention of improving reliability over the whole of route 8/8A.

Secondly, here is recently acquired Volvo B7RLE 66883 (MX55HHP), pictured in Millbrook yesterday. Route 17 in Southampton has just been rerouted via Adanac Park during the weekdays, which explains the change to the scrolling display. All of the 10 former Devon & Cornwall Volvo B7RLEs are in service with FHD now - 66881 at Weymouth (although it is due to move up this month), and the other 9 at Empress Road.

I personally liked the previous layout, which gave a clear and detailed explanation of where the bus was going. The new scrolling layout is smaller (although one could argue slightly smarter) in size, and gives fewer "via points", but still looks good and does its job just as well. What do you think?

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

772 at long last!

Today, after 5 and a half years of searching, I finally managed to catch up with BlueStar Dennis Trident 772 (T742JPO)! Although this is not necessarily big news to anyone else, I'm sure each photographer has their own much loved(!) nemesi buses, and 772 was one of mine!

Last seen on 16th April 2005 in Eastleigh bus station, in an allover advert for the then relatively new Gunwharf Quays, 742 is pictured in pre-Go Ahead times loading for Fair Oak on route 2.
And then today, I finally managed to catch up with T742JPO - now numbered 772 under Go Ahead ownership. She is pictured along Kendal Avenue in Millbrook on route 18, wearing her Remembrance Poppy on the front. I felt my encounter with 772 was coming - I managed to catch up with 779, my other missing Trident - last month in Hedge End. Now for the two that have been repainted in the dark blue livery!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Ugo - The Hampshire Network

Hampshire are benefitting from the new First South Coast partnership involving the Hants & Dorset and Devon & Cornwall networks. With Ugobus cuts in Plymouth, FHD have already received Dart SLFs for Hilsea and Volvo B7RLEs for Southampton.

Two former Hong Kong Darts operate from Hilsea depot. These are former First Edinburgh 40959 (S335TJX) and former Eastern Counties 42759 (S659SNG), illustrated to the right, and are the only two Plaxton bodied Darts operated from Hilsea depot. Both have been repainted since they arrived at FHD and look very smart as they operate around Portsmouth.

Two more have just arrived at Hilsea depot - 40957 (S372SUX) and 42778 (S678SNG) - and will replace two more former London Darts that have just been withdrawn. Two more are due - and 40956 (S344SUX) - is intended to arrive. I was lucky enough to photograph 40956 last summer, in full Ugobus glory in Plymouth. However, Portsmouth and Southampton are increasingly becoming the places to visit if you wish to photograph buses which have seen service on the Ugobus network!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

A New Philosophy for Route Changes?

Omnibuses blog entry on Wednesday 10th November suggested that with First appointing a new boss- Tim O'Toole, some of the widespread cuts of last year may be reversed as First attempt to ride out the recession by adopting further well designed services, targetting the needs of the customer without more cuts. In this blog entry, I'll explore what this means for First Hampshire...

There is some evidence around Hampshire suggesting a more outside-the-box philosophy of route changes. Take route 26, pictured right - which is the combination of two routes, and also opens up a long since disappeared link between Fareham and Hamble. Or the new route 28 - the combination of 4 previous routes (route 27, 28, 76 and 78) which opens up new links to Fareham Community Hospital, not previously served by route 78. Or finally, moving further afield, route X43 introduced between Weymouth and Swanage over the summer. A brand new route opening up new links, that was very popular supposed to be returning next summer. Although these are common sense solutions, and hopefully will be successful, one wonders if such solutions or routes would have been introduced a few years ago.

Despite the other recent cuts of two summers ago, which saw route 34 halved, route 78 and 96 cut, and a variety of other changes, there does seem to be an optimism around the county which could result in developed routes, new links, or maybe even routes or frequencies being reintroduced. One such example of a future potential change could include a new link serving Cherque Farm estate in Gosport. This could involve a diversion of route 87A, or a reintroduction of the half hourly route 34 frequency which terminated at Lee on Solent. Or, more adventurously, a doubling of route 72's frequency with one half diverting via the new estate.

I don't wish to speculate further to whether any changes will be made, or whether the new boss will change anything locally here in Hampshire. All we can say is that we will have to wait and see what happens in the future.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Bognor Regis in 2004

On 1st May 2004, I visited Bognor Regis in West Sussex for the first time, and despite being young at the time, had a fantastic day photographign buses in the town centre. Most (if not all) have moved on from Stagecoach Southdown (then, Stagecoach Coastline). This blog entry illustrates some of the changes since 2004....

 First up, here is Volvo Citybus 15201 (F301MYJ), acquired new to Southdown. She is seen in the town centre heading for Midhurst on route 60, via Chichester. Having moved to Stagecoach Devon following the introduction of the new Tridents for route 700, she was sold from the fleet in 2007. Velvet still operate 3 of 15201's sisters - 302, 303 and 309 - further West down the South Coast.

The order operating the then half-hourly route 700 were a variety of Volvo Olympians. The youngest examples were S reg buses - some of which have remained somewhere around the Stagecoach South fleet since the introduction of low floor buses on route 700. Illusrated here is 16311 (S311CCD), heading for Brighton, which now operates in Scotland with Stagecoach Western.

Volvo B10Ms with a mixture of Alexander and Northern Counties bodywork operated routes 60 and 700, along with the double deckers. Here is 20628 (L628TDY), pictured heading for Midhurst via Chichester on route 60. This bus remained local following the improvements to route 700 - having just been displaced at Worthing by recent Enviro300 deliveries.

Darts still operate route 66/66A, which connects Bognor Regis with Yapton. However, these Alexander bodied step entry Darts, illustrated here by 32546 (J546GCD), have long gone, and the route is operated by low floor Dart SPDs previously allocated to Portsmouth depot. 32546 was sold to Nu-Venture following its withdrawal from service. This batch of Darts is spread widely over the south - some also operate with Emsworth & District, for example.

One of the biggest changes since 2004 regard the town services. Propper numbered routes 61 and 63 have been replaced by Star A and Star B, with Optare Solos operating them. The order on the town services back in 2004 were these then recently repainted and extremely smartly presented Mercedes-Benz 709Ds. 40903 (N203LPN) is the lead bus, which has long since left the fleet.

Thanks for reading - I hope to re-increase the post numbers this week as I'm less busy than last week. I'm not sure if I'll be able to get out and get photos though - there may be more of these more historical pieces!